Hong Kong mother almost starved her young daughter to death, court hears
Prosecutor claims girl’s parents intentionally misled authorities, as woman denies neglecting seven-year-old girl
A Hong Kong mother allegedly deprived her seven-year-old daughter of medical treatment and almost starved her to death in what a prosecutor on Wednesday called a “tragic case”.
After Suki Ling Yun-lam’s ailing condition came to light, the mother, Mandy Wong Wing-man, 42, misled authorities with her estranged husband, Rocky Ling Yiu-chung, 52, when doctors, social workers and police officers looked into the matter, the High Court heard.
After the girl suffered a cardiac arrest and was admitted to Yan Chai Hospital, they told officials that she was born prematurely and had birth defects, and said her poor condition was caused by her playing with “faeces and urine” and self-harming.
Wong, who was a teacher in her native Shantou on the mainland before moving to Hong Kong in 2012, pleaded not guilty to neglecting Ling between April 28 and July 18 in 2015, and one further count of perverting the course of public justice.
She also denied another count of perverting the course of justice she jointly faced with her husband, Rocky Ling Yiu-chung.
“This is not a trivial neglect,” prosecutor Duncan Percy told a seven-member jury in his opening remarks on Wednesday.
Dubbing it a “tragic case”, he continued: “We are talking about serious neglect here for a long period of time.”
Percy said the woman, also known as Wang Xuexin, moved to Hong Kong in 2012, three years after she married Rocky Ling. Initially, she came with Suki’s older twin half-sisters – her children from a previous marriage – and Suki’s younger brother, while Suki was left in Shantou to be cared for by her mother.
The couple separated in 2013, Percy said, a year before Suki was also brought to Hong Kong. The prosecutor argued that at the time of the offence Wong was her sole carer.
Percy said the principal and teachers at The Salvation Army Fu Keung Kindergarten, where Suki was enrolled days after she arrived in Hong Kong on November 4, 2014, were impressed by her ability. Suki was able to meet the school’s requirements, a performance record had shown.
But at the beginning of 2015, Suki began missing classes more frequently, with one of the teachers spotting signs of her being abused. She was limping and had bruises on her face, Percy said.
Suki, the prosecutor said, initially told the teacher that she fell from a tree in her native home and hurt her leg, but later refrained from answering more questions.
When approached, Wong claimed the girl had been hit by someone who took care of her on the mainland. However, Immigration Department records showed Suki had not left Hong Kong. April 28 was the last day she was seen at school.
On July 18, her mother took the child to the emergency department of the Yan Chai Hospital, the prosecutor said. He said Suki was emaciated and covered in sores, bruises and abrasions when a doctor tended to her. Her pupils were dilated and her pulse could hardly be detected.
She was suffering from cardiac arrest as a result of malnutrition, the prosecutor told the jury.
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In subsequent interviews with social workers, doctors and police, Wong claimed her daughter was born prematurely and had congenital defects. She claimed the girl was 1.5kg when born, contrary to the birth certificate that stated she weighed 3kg.
She also said she brought Suki to Hong Kong in 2015 – despite it being 2014 – because she was worried that her mother had not looked after her properly on the mainland. She said the multiple injuries were caused by the girl playing with “faeces and urine” and scratching herself.
Percy said the father stuck to the same story, until he later decided to tell the truth after police showed him photographs of Suki’s condition.
The trial continues on Thursday before Mr Justice Kevin Zervos.